Stephen Menn

Academic title(s): 

Professor and James McGill Professor; Associate member, History and Classics

Contact Information

855 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 2T7

Email address: 
stephen.menn [at]
Leacock 921
Office hours: 

Wed 4-6 p.m.


M.A (Mathematics), Johns Hopkins University, 1982

M.A. (Philosophy), Chicago, 1984

Ph.D. (Mathematics), Johns Hopkins University, 1985

Ph.D. (Philosophy), Chicago, 1989

Research areas: 
Ancient Philosophy
History and Philosophy of Mathematics
Medieval Philosophy

I am a professor of philosophy at McGill and also an associate member of the department of History and Classical Studies; I do about two thirds of my teaching at McGill in Philosophy, one sixth in Classics, and one sixth in Islamic Studies. I am also an honorary professor of philosophy, and a member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Ancient Philosophy, at the Humboldt University in Berlin, where I held a regular chair from 2011 to 2015. I normally spend every summer in Berlin, where summer is a regular semester, and I usually teach one course there each summer semester, in English, as well as supervising graduate students at both universities. Many of my papers, and a draft of one of my books, can be found on my Berlin website,

I first studied mathematics, taking an MA in 1982 and a PhD in 1985, both from the Johns Hopkins University, and then philosophy, taking an MA in 1984 and a PhD in 1989, both from the University of Chicago; along the way I also took courses in classics, Arabic and Sanskrit. I taught at Princeton University from 1989 to 1992 before joining the faculty at McGill. My main areas of research are in ancient Greek philosophy (with current special interests in Aristotle and in neo-Platonism), in medieval Arabic and Latin philosophy, and in the history and philosophy of mathematics.

I am currently revising a book-manuscript entitled The Aim and the Argument of Aristotle's Metaphysics, a draft of which can be found on my Berlin website; I am also revising a draft of a book called Feuerbach's Theorem: an Essay on Euclidean and Algebraic Geometry. I am also working, with Calvin Normore, on a book to be called Nominalism and Realism, from Boethius to Hobbes. With Rachel Barney of the University of Toronto, I have translated Simplicius' commentary on Aristotle's Physics I,1-2; we have finished the translation and notes and are working on the introduction, and the volume (or more likely two volumes) will be published by Bloomsbury Press in the series Ancient Commentators on Aristotle. With Justin E.H. Smith of the Université de Paris-VII I have translated two philosophical dissertations by Anton-Wilhelm Amo, a Ghanaian philosopher who studied and taught in Germany in the 1730's and 40's, the On the Impassivity of the Human Mind and the Philosophical Disputation containing a Distinct Idea of those things that pertain either to the Mind or to our Living and Organic Body; we have finished the translations and notes and are working on the introduction. I am also publishing a series of articles on the logical syntax of being and unity (notably on the origin and development of the idea that existence is a second-order predicate) in medieval Arabic and Latin philosophy, which I hope eventually to collect as a book. I am also engaged in shorter research projects on pre-Socratic philosophy, on Plato's Theaetetus, on Aristotle's Analytics, Physics, De Anima and Poetics, on neo-Platonic metaphysics, and on ancient music theory and arithmetic.

Teaching areas: 

Ancient Philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism, neo-Platonism)
Medieval Philosophy (Latin and Arabic)
History and Philosophy of Mathematics

Selected publications: 
  • Plato on God as Nous, published by Southern Illinois University Press for the Journal of the History of Philosophy Monograph Series, 1995; reissued by St. Augustine's Press, 2002 (modern Greek translation, Ο Πλάτων για τον Θεό ως Νου, tr. Pantelis Golitsis, University Press of Crete, 2015)
  • Descartes and Augustine, Cambridge University Press, 1998; revised paperback edition, 2002
  • "Descartes and Some Predecessors on the Divine Conservation of Motion," Synthese 83, May 1990, pp.215-38
  • "Aristotle and Plato on God as Nous and as the Good," Review of Metaphysics 45, March 1992, pp.543-73
  • "The Problem of the Third Meditation," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Autumn 1993, pp.537-59
  • "The Origins of Aristotle's Concept of EnergeiaEnergeia and Dunamis," Ancient Philosophy 14, Spring 1994, pp.73-114
  • "The Editors of the Metaphysics," Phronesis 40, July 1995, pp.202-8
  • "The Greatest Stumbling Block: Descartes' Denial of Real Qualities," in Descartes and his Contemporaries: Meditations, Objections and Replies, ed. Roger Ariew and Marjorie Grene, University of Chicago Press, 1995, pp.182-207
  • "Metaphysics, Dialectic, and the Categories," Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 100, July-September 1995, pp.311-37
  • "Physics as a Virtue," Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 11 [nominally 1995, actually 1996], pp.1-34
  • "Suárez, Nominalism, and Modes," in Hispanic Philosophy in the Age of Discovery, ed. Kevin White, Catholic University of America Press, 1997, pp.226-56
  • "Classical Metaphysical Thought," in the Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, ed. Donald Zeyl, Greenwood Press, 1997, pp.335-42
  • "Descartes, Augustine, and the Status of Faith," in Studies in Seventeenth-Century European Philosophy, ed. M.A. Stewart, OUP, 1997, pp.1-31
  • "The Intellectual Setting [of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy]," in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, edd. Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers, CUP, 1997, pp.33-86
  • "Collecting the Letters," Phronesis 43, November 1998, pp.291-305
  • "The Stoic Theory of Categories," Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 17, 1999, pp.215-47
  • "On Dennis Des Chene's Physiologia," Perspectives on Science 8, 2000, pp.119-43
  • "Plotinus on the Identity of Knowledge with its Object," Apeiron 34, September 2001, pp.233-46
  • "Metaphysics Z10-16 and the Argument-Structure of Metaphysics Z," Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 21, Winter 2001, pp.83-134
  • "Longinus on Plotinus," Dionysius 19, December 2001, pp.113-24
  • "Aristotle's Definition of Soul and the Programme of the De Anima," Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 22, Summer 2002, pp.83-139
  • "Plato and the Method of Analysis," Phronesis 47, June 2002, pp.193-223
  • "The Discourse on the Method and the Tradition of Intellectual Autobiography," in Hellenistic and Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Jon Miller and Brad Inwood, CUP, 2003, pp.141-91
  • "Metaphysics: God and Being," in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy, ed. A.S. McGrade, 2003, pp.147-70
  • "Aristotle," in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition, ed. Donald Borchert, Macmillan, 2006
  • "On Plato's Πολιτεία," Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 21 [nominally 2005, actually 2006], pp.1-55
  • "Fârâbî's Kitâb al-urûf and his Analysis of the Senses of Being," Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 18, March 2008, pp.59-97
  • "Aporiai 13-14," in Aristotle's Metaphysics Beta (Proceedings of the XVIth Symposium Aristotelicum), ed. Michel Crubellier and André Laks, OUP, 2009, pp.211-65
  • "Zeller and the Debates about Aristotle's Metaphysics," in Eduard Zeller: Philosophie- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte im 19. Jahrhundert, ed. Gerald Hartung, Walter de Gruyter, 2009, pp.93-121
  • "The Timaeus and the Critique of Pre-Socratic Vortices," in One Book, the Whole Universe: Plato's Timaeus Today, ed. Richard Mohr and Barbara Sattler, Parmenides Publishing, 2010, pp.141-50
  • "Simplicius on the Theaetetus (In Physica 17,38-18,23 Diels)," Phronesis 55, 2010, pp.255-70
  • "On Socrates' First Objections to the Physicists (Phaedo 95e8-97b7)," Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 38, Summer 2010, pp.37-68
  • "In memoriam Ian Mueller (1938-2010)," Aestimatio 7 [nominally 2010, actually 2011], pp.193-228,  
  • "On Myles Burnyeat's Map of Metaphysics Zeta," Ancient Philosophy 31, Spring 2011, pp.161-202
  • "Fârâbî in the Reception of Avicenna's Metaphysics: Averroes against Avicenna on Being and Unity," in The Arabic, Hebrew and Latin Reception of Avicenna’s Metaphysics, edd. Dag Hasse and Amos Bertolacci, Walter de Gruyter, 2011, pp.51-96
  • "Self-Motion and Reflection: Hermias and Proclus on the Harmony of Plato and Aristotle on the Soul," in Neoplatonism and the Philosophy of Nature, ed. James Wilberding and Christoph Horn, OUP, 2012, pp.44-67
  • "Metaphysics A7-A8 989a18: Critique of Earlier Philosophers on the Good and the Causes," in Aristotle's Metaphysics Alpha (Proceedings of the XVIIIth Symposium Aristotelicum), ed. Carlos Steel, OUP, 2012, pp.201-224
  • "Aristotle's Theology," in the Oxford Handbook of Aristotle, ed. Christopher Shields, OUP, 2012, pp.422-64
  • "La sagesse comme science des quatre causes?", translated by Louis-André Dorion, in Physique et Métaphysique chez Aristote, ed. Maddalena Bonelli, Vrin, 2012, pp.39-68
  • "Yaḥyâ ibn ‛Adî, On the Four Scientific Questions Concerning the Three Kinds of Existence, introduction, edition, translation and notes," with Robert Wisnovsky, Mélanges de l'Institut Dominicain d'Études Orientales 29 [nominally 2012, actually 2013], pp.73-96
  • "Avicenna's Metaphysics," in Interpreting Avicenna, ed. Peter Adamson, CUP, 2013, pp.143-69
  • "Plato's Soteriology?", in Philosophy and Salvation in Greek Religion, ed. Vishwa Adluri, Walter de Gruyter, 2013, pp.191-216
  • "The Desire for God and the Aporetic Method in Augustine's Confessions," in Augustine's Confessions: Philosophy in Autobiography, ed. William Mann, OUP, 2014, pp.71-107
  • "Democritus, Aristotle, and the Problemata," in The Aristotelian Problemata: Philosophical and Scientific Investigations, ed. Robert Mayhew, Brill, 2015, pp.10-35
  • "How Archytas Doubled the Cube," in The Frontiers of Ancient Science: Essays in Honor of Heinrich von Staden, ed. Klaus-Dietrich Fischer and Brooke Holmes, Walter de Gruyter, 2015, pp.407-35
  • "Yaḥyâ and Ibrâhîm ibn ‛Adî, On Whether Body is a Substance or a Quantity, introduction, edition, translation and notes," with Robert Wisnovsky, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 27 (2017), 1-74

  • "On the Title of Porphyry's Categories Commentary Πρὸς Γεδάλειον," Phronesis 62 (2017), 355-62

  • "Eudoxus' Theory of Proportion and his Method of Exhaustion," to appear in Logic, Philosophy of Mathematics, and their History: Essays in Honor of W.W. Tait, edited by Erich Reck, College Publications, 2018

  • "Physics I,1," to appear in the Symposium Aristotelicum volume on Physics I, edited by Katerina Ierodiakonou, Paul Kalligas, and Vassilis Karasmanis, OUP